16 December 2007 3rd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35, 1-10; Psalm 146; James 5, 7-10
The tradition of the Simbanggabi in our island springs from a novena: nine days of prayer in preparation and waiting for the feast to come that is the coming of Christ. Such is the spirit of the readings today. Those who were exiled to Babylon await for the day when they will return to their land. They dreamt of returning home. The prophet Isaiah promised them that salvation will come someday. The Gospel is about John the baptist in prison who hears of news that people who are sick regain their health, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. For John, he is hearing the fulfillment of what he preached: the Messiah whom he promised to come has indeed arrived.
Waiting possesses two important things:
First, when we wait we need patience. James writes in the second reading that patience is how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth. And the duration of their patience begins from planting until it bears fruit. The important thing in the waiting is making our hearts firm.
There are many of us waiting. We wait for the time when we graduate from college. We wait for the results of an exam. We wait for the time when the pain from our relationships stop throbbing. We wait for the day of freedom from the burdens of family and finances. Some are waiting to have a baby. Some are expecting for birth. Some are waiting for the right person to come. And the readings today reminds us: huwag pilitin, let time take its course. Be patient. The time will indeed come. As of the moment, savor waiting time.
Second, when we wait we put our hearts in joyful anticipation of the things to come. This projection to the future is brought by our promises. Waiting gives us a momentum. When a loved one bids us goodbye before they take off to another country, we hinge our hope to their promise that they will return someday. My sister for example said one year. The first time I crossed a day less from that year, I find the pace slow and I lose my patience. After awhile, time flies quickly. When our hearts become accustomed to the absence, we become less conscious of the time. And as the day of arrival approaches, our hearts begin to beat a little faster and we become excited. The energy that pulls us to the future comes from the very words of our love ones: their promises to us. Our promises free us from the past.
We have survived many storms in our lives because we believed in promises. History tells us that the people of Israel survived exile because of God’s promises. Roman civilization was built on honoring contracts and edicts --- promises on paper. Christianity is built on the promise of God for the Savior, and the promise of the Savior to us that he will be with us till the end of time. There is no relationship without a promise. And our lives have been enriched by the promises of other people to us: our parents who promised to raise us into good persons, our friends who promise their faithfulness, society who promised to keep order for everyone to live in peace.